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Thread: Fumbles

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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Fumbles

    I was reading an old thread about "worst house rules" and one of the first answers was critical fumbles (and no-one disagreed). Most tables I've played at use some variant of the fumble rules, and I've never heard anyone complain. Personally I find they add a bit of extra excitement and sometimes humour to the game. So...are fumbles a widely-hated variant? If so why?

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    Default Re: Fumbles

    i don't hate it and depending on the tone of the game i might love it.

    in gritty realism the possibility of things going terribly wrong in battle should be there.

    in an Epic Fantasy game i'd rather not have my character's tombstone read "hit by his own disintergrade spell".

    i'd also rather appreciate them in a Horror game; adds to the whole "you should never feel safe" feeling.

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    Default Re: Fumbles

    I have nothing against fumble-rules, and they've given some very memorable comical scenes in games I've been in.

    I just can't be bothered to use them when I GM.
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    Default Re: Fumbles

    So...are fumbles a widely-hated variant? If so why?
    Probably depends on the game, for a lot of people, but my experience with D20 fantasy is that people mostly dislike them in practice, myself included.

    As PCs you roll a lot. Beyond that, specific characters roll more often than others. The Wizard who casts one spell per round has one chance to fumble in most combat rounds, while the fighter or rogue who attacks multiple times has maaaaany more, and while a Fighter is probably making way less skill checks than a Wizard, the Rogue gets to double down on both skill checks and attack rolls more often than not.

    With attacks, an automatic miss is already bad enough. It means your action (or that part of your action) was essentially wasted. Adding insult to injury just feels unnecessary. With skill checks, one of the few mercies of the system is that with enough aptitude or training you can achieve a reasonable amount of success even with the worst turn of luck. That is a feature, not a flaw of the system. Adding fumbles to skill checks, and again consider the crazy number of skill checks that will be made over the lifetime of a character, just seems unnecessary. I don't really need 5% of them to be screwups.

    If they work for you and yours, more power to you, but for my part seeing a GM who decides to use them is probably indicative of a table experience I'm not going to enjoy so I'll find another game. There's no shortage of hilarious screwups in the games I've played in as-is, just due to mistakes PCs have made, without adding the certainty of a 1 in 20 chance.

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    Default Re: Fumbles

    One of my GMs runs fumbles as follows:
    After rolling a Nat 1, roll a d12 to determine direction. 12 is right in front of you, like a clock.
    Roll a percentile. Middle numbers (30-70 typically) mean you just miss. High numbers mean you threw your weapon, low numbers mean you dropped it.
    There's a chance that if you roll a 12, and a middle number, you still hit your target. So that's kinda neat. A little complicated for me though.

    I just roll to confirm. If you confirm a Nat 1 you drop your weapon.
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    Default Re: Fumbles

    Almost exclusively I've seen fumbles implemented in a manner that does not give the player any agency over controlling how easily they might fumble at a given task. It is these arbitrary fumble rates that I detest. Contrast this with something like SR4e's fumble system where the chance of fumbling drops off heavily the more competent a character is. Fumbles aren't a desired outcome, they are something a player will want to avoid just as surely as they don't want to end up in the spike pit or end up smothered in lava. If the only answer to "how do I avoid fumbles?" is to roll less often the fumble system is guaranteed to be flawed. Something like a reflex save I'd call out as bull**** alike as it means a bard is less likely to fumble with a halberd than typical warrior is, such values aren't naturally the focus and require a moderate deviation from the normal build decisions in order to mitigate. If there are to be fumbles the functions governing their frequency should take into account numbers that are clearly tied to the competency of the character in question.
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    Default Re: Fumbles

    Quote Originally Posted by False God View Post
    I just roll to confirm. If you confirm a Nat 1 you drop your weapon.
    So if a Wizard rolls a Nat 1 on their Disintegrate, do they drop their spell? >_>

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    Default Re: Fumbles

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychoalpha View Post
    So if a Wizard rolls a Nat 1 on their Disintegrate, do they drop their spell? >_>
    Yes, they "drop" the spell. ie: lose the spell as if they had expended its use/slot and nothing happens.

    Though I like to give out more Harry Potter/4E-style "wands" and LOTR-style "staffs" as casting aides, and if they are using that to cast with, they drop that.
    Last edited by False God; 2019-09-22 at 09:28 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by False God View Post
    Yes, they "drop" the spell. ie: lose the spell as if they had expended its use/slot and nothing happens.
    Right, so... if a fighter rolls a 1, he drops his sword (or whatever), something beyond simply missing like a 1 would normally do.

    But if a wizard rolls a 1, he loses his spell as if he'd expended its use/slot and nothing happens... more or less exactly like simply missing like a 1 would normally do.

    Sure.

    Though I like to give out more Harry Potter/4E-style "wands" and LOTR-style "staffs" as casting aides, and if they are using that to cast with, they drop that.
    That'd offer more parity, especially since it's probably just as difficult to confirm touch attacks as other types of... oh wait. ;D

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    Default Re: Fumbles

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychoalpha View Post
    Right, so... if a fighter rolls a 1, he drops his sword (or whatever), something beyond simply missing like a 1 would normally do.
    If he confirms, yes. A nat 1 is an auto-miss. A confirmed nat 1 is a drop.

    But if a wizard rolls a 1, he loses his spell as if he'd expended its use/slot and nothing happens... more or less exactly like simply missing like a 1 would normally do.

    Sure.
    Assuming you're not running one of the innumerable ways to avoid losing a spell after casting it. The confirmed nat 1 trumps all that.

    That'd offer more parity, especially since it's probably just as difficult to confirm touch attacks as other types of... oh wait. ;D
    Fighter loot (like swords, shields and stuff) will typically confer higher bonuses and static effects like damage reduction and regeneration and energy immunities. Wizard loot (wands, staffs, robes) will typically confer special effects, rather than large +bonuses. Longer durations, higher damage, alternate damage types and special statuses on crits.

    I'm aware wizards don't need any help to hit, especially with touch attacks. Having a fighter with a +6 Sword of Sundering(Gives Imp Sunder while used and does 6*dmg on objects) and a Wizard with a +1 Wand of Gold (When you cast Flesh to Stone, if they fumble their save they become gold instead of mundane stone) is what you'd likely see at my table.
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    Default Re: Fumbles

    Fumbles over punish the weakest chunk of D&D players, martials. While having no effect on a high end spell caster. Fumbles are idiotic. It's a "homerule" usually in use from people who don't understand how balance works or that martials need a leg up to function not a beheading.
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    Default Re: Fumbles

    Quoth Philistine:

    Quote Originally Posted by Philistine View Post
    Critical Fumble Rule:
    If at any time a DM shall propose using a "critical failure" or "fumble" table of any sort in a 3.X game, the players are to beat the DM with folding chairs until each of them has accidentally struck himself with his chair at least once, while keeping a count of the number of strikes made before this happens. Then, the average rate of such "fumbles" as generated by a table full of nerds swinging improvised weapons will establish the maximum probability of a "fumble" within the game mechanics for a level 1 Commoner (note that this already will probably require rolling multiple Natural 1's in succession to confirm a fumble), with the probability dropping by at least an order of magnitude per point of BAB of the attacking character. Thus a full-BAB character at level 20 might have to roll 20+ Natural 1's in a row to before you even bother glancing at the Fumble Table.

    I suppose I might consider using fumble rules if full spellcasters had to roll Concentration for every spell they cast ever, and a Natural 1 on that roll had comparable consequences to a Natural 1 on a mundane attack... but really, No. Just no. Not even then.
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    Default Re: Fumbles

    The biggest two issues with Fumble rules tend to be that, they hurt skill monkeys and beatsticks more than casters and that as your level increase fumbles are MORE likely to ruin your day.

    Consider a roll on a 1 has something bad happen when attacking or 1 on a skill check = auto fail.

    A level 20 Fighter with 4 attacks will mathematically fail 1/20 attacks, or fumble once every ~30 seconds. A level 1 Fighter will also fumble 1/20 attacks but that only happens once every 2 minutes on average. Essentially a highly trained warrior general will fumble more times/minute than a green behind the ears new recruit.

    This also becomes an issue in hitting skill check DCs. Compare a Bard with ~10 Diplomancy and a Bard with 30. They both have to hit a DC 20 to make someone friendly. The bard with 10 Diplomacy will fail 1/2 their checks and the nat 1 doesn't matter because it's a fail normally. However the master Bard with 30 Diplomacy would normally make the check even on a 1 but because of critical fumble rules now fails that roll on occasion.

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    Default Re: Fumbles

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychoalpha View Post
    specific characters roll more often than others. The Wizard who casts one spell per round has one chance to fumble in most combat rounds, while the fighter or rogue who attacks multiple times has maaaaany more, and while a Fighter is probably making way less skill checks than a Wizard, the Rogue gets to double down on both skill checks and attack rolls more often than not.
    This is a fair point. I don't usually use fumbles on skill checks, but it's true that fumbles hit martials harder than casters.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychoalpha View Post
    without adding the certainty of a 1 in 20 chance.
    The standard rule is that you have to make a DC10 Dex check to avoid fumbling, so it's not a certainty of a 1 in 20 chance. Personally I'm currently using a critical confirmation roll version (if you miss on the second roll, it's a fumble, if you hit it's just a miss).

    Quote Originally Posted by Lorddenorstrus View Post
    Fumbles are idiotic. It's a "homerule" usually in use from people who don't understand how balance works or that martials need a leg up to function not a beheading.
    There's no need to be rude. Fumbles make the game more fun for me and most of the people I play with, so they're not idiotic for us. If game balance is the top priority for you, fair enough: for us excitement and humour often take precedence. Also, we use other methods to improve balance between classes to it's not a major problem.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Biggus View Post
    There's no need to be rude. Fumbles make the game more fun for me and most of the people I play with, so they're not idiotic for us. If game balance is the top priority for you, fair enough: for us excitement and humour often take precedence. Also, we use other methods to improve balance between classes to it's not a major problem.
    This.

    Most people are aware of the game balance surrounding fumble rules, but just have more fun with them.

    Let people have their fun.
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    Default Re: Fumbles

    Man, I got the locked gauntlet, the sovereign glue, some kind of magic weapon and I still have to pass a Dexterity check just to see if my weapon suddenly gets stolen by an imp and lost forever? Why am I even trying to bother with heavy armor at all? Better to just play... nothing. Losing key pieces of loot at random is not fun.
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    mad Re: Fumbles

    In a campaign that I am currently in, I had a character die to a fumble. It wasn't even my fumble, but another player rolled a 1, rolled to confirm it, got a miss, and then rolled on a table of bad stuff that resulted in "triple damage friend." I died from that hit even though I was at full HP (admittedly this was at level 1 where crits are the most swingy). I was using stealth at the time, so the enemies we were fighting didn't even know I was there before I died.

    Do we joke about this happening? Of course; it's completely ridiculous, after all. Does that change the fact that getting insta-killed by a party member when there's nothing either of you can do about it is miserable? No.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Biggus View Post
    There's no need to be rude. Fumbles make the game more fun for me and most of the people I play with, so they're not idiotic for us. If game balance is the top priority for you, fair enough: for us excitement and humour often take precedence. Also, we use other methods to improve balance between classes to it's not a major problem.
    I mean... you're arguing that as long as people at a table are having fun, none of the rules they use are idiotic, regardless of how bad they are. Only adding sneak attack to one attack per round regardless of circumstances? Caster Level boosts granting spell level access as if they were levels in the casting class? Mandatory vital strike for all combatants because full attacks make the game take too long? None of these things are idiotic as long as somebody, somewhere, enjoys them?

    Going to have to disagree.

    As noted, I've never really seen any shortage of excitement and humor at our tables even without fumble rules, so the idea of enforcing extra levels of failure that disproportionately impact those classes who already have the least toys just to introduce some to your game is really pretty sad. :(

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zancloufer View Post
    The biggest two issues with Fumble rules tend to be that, they hurt skill monkeys and beatsticks more than casters and that as your level increase fumbles are MORE likely to ruin your day.
    Quote Originally Posted by Xervous View Post
    Almost exclusively I've seen fumbles implemented in a manner that does not give the player any agency over controlling how easily they might fumble at a given task.

    Quote Originally Posted by False God View Post
    High numbers mean you threw your weapon, low numbers mean you dropped it.
    [Have you have seen a competent fighter dropping their weapon without being disarmed??? anyone here tried a bit of swordplay for real?]
    those posts outline the major problems with critical fumbles. not much their existance, but they way they are often implemented. the most asinine of those is, of course, the high level fighter dropping the sword every couple rounds.

    Fumbles are all ok if they are reasonable. personally, I suggest that a fumble should provoke an attack of opportunity, as in "your attack was too aggressive and left you overexposed". andd they should require confirmation, of course.
    such a fumble woouldn't negatively impact a wizard, but it also wouldn't positively impact a wizard when a foe fumbles against him, so that's fair. but it doesn't add anything to the game, so I don't use it.

    Anyway, I would want to see a ffumble table before deciding whether to play. with the dumb "drop the weapon" ccase, it's definitely a no (or a "play something else", if my friends are playing and I'm in for the company). but with sensible tables, it wouldn't be a problem.

    Seriously, this is just the same situation as the "what's wrong with lawful good" in another thread. there's nothing wrongwith the thing per se, but it's done poorly so often, ppeople are now suspicious a priori.
    Last edited by King of Nowhere; 2019-09-22 at 11:58 AM.
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    Default Re: Fumbles

    One of my issues with Fumbling is that it is often presented as "realistic" (in a game with magic), while it's generally ludicrously unrealistic.

    For instance, a quick Google tells me that in 2010, there were an average of~67 swings per game in the MLB. The odds of not fumbling are less than 3.5%. That means we should be seeing professional baseball players drop bats, or hit themselves with a bat, or somehow hit the umpire somewhere between 1-3 time per game. Anyone ever seen that sort of frequency in a live game? Even an amateur one?
    In university, I took an archery class. 20 people, 20 arrows per quiver, for an hour, twice a week, for 4 months. Not once over the course of tens of thousands of arrows fired did I see anyone drop their bow while attacking, or accidentally shooting the person next to them, or breaking a bowstring. Not once. In a class of amateurs.

    Now if you want gritty randomness, write a bunch of random effects (but static effects, the raging barbarian somehow performing an autocritting full attack on himself is not the same as the wizard autocritting himself once with a quarterstaff, if they're gonna have to damage themselves, keep the numbers static) on some decks of cards, and have every player draw one, once per turn or something. Every player should be subject to the same chances of terribleness equally.

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    Default Re: Fumbles

    I hate fumble rules. I want to play Big Damn Heroes not the Keystone Cops.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryton View Post
    In university, I took an archery class. 20 people, 20 arrows per quiver, for an hour, twice a week, for 4 months. Not once over the course of tens of thousands of arrows fired did I see anyone drop their bow while attacking, or accidentally shooting the person next to them, or breaking a bowstring. Not once. In a class of amateurs.
    How many orcs trying to kill you were present during these training exercises?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bavarian itP View Post
    How many orcs trying to kill you were present during these training exercises?
    Oh, is the presence of orcs a requirement for fumbles?

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    Default Re: Fumbles

    If you want two way combats look at Olympic fencing matches or the like. Very rare indeed for a fencer to stab themselves or the judge or a random audience member. Or look at the SCA where people swing at each other with Rattan swords. The truth does not come close to matching most fumble rules.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Particle_Man View Post
    If you want two way combats look at Olympic fencing matches or the like. Very rare indeed for a fencer to stab themselves or the judge or a random audience member. Or look at the SCA where people swing at each other with Rattan swords. The truth does not come close to matching most fumble rules.
    It doesn't come close in really any situation where martial combat is practiced routinely. For most of my early life I was in and out of various martial arts schools (my mom thought it would help me with some self control issues, and she was mostly right), and even experienced children don't fumble like they do with any of these fumble rules.

    But hey, at least people are getting their mechanically mandated humor and excitement, I guess.

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    Default Re: Fumbles

    A number of reasons:

    1) In 3.5, you roll to confirm a critical hit. No one ever rolls to confirm a critical failure (at least not at any table I have played at). Instead the moment a natural 1 occurs, you immediately begin rolling on whatever chart is present to determine your impending doom. The simple act of rolling a d20 a second time-- and using a miss to "confirm" the critical fumble-- would be a mild improvement, however...

    2) Critical fumbles are mathematically awful for the players. On the one possibility of the presence of a table that offers permanent injuries or other penalties for a critical fumble, it is statistically definite that by the end of a campaign a combat character will be so stacked up with penalties it will be rendered all but unplayable. Meanwhile, the vast majority of injuries on NPC's are irrelevant because at the end of combat they will likely be dead.

    3) Even without the presence of a permanent injury system, it still places a massive statistical burden on the players. In order for the players to finish the campaign, they have to win every combat. In order for the enemy NPC's to stop the players, they have to win once. Critical fumbles dramatically stack these odds in favor of the enemies the more often combat that occurs.

    4) As with many similar combat changes, it greatly hoses martial characters and rarely affects spellcasters. Even if you include supplemental effects for spellcasters that aren't actually an additional punishment for non-spellcasters (for example one noteworthy table I was at for a very short time where a critical fumble on a ranged touch spell caused it to automatically hit a nearby ally instead), spellcasters always have the option to simply stop using spells that require attack rolls. Martial characters don't.

    5) Such systems are often grossly imbalanced compared against the critical hit rules already in place in the PHB. A successful critical hit results in multiplying the weapon damage roll by the particular weapon you are using. And that's it. The mathematical advantage gained by this varies greatly depending on the weapon, but at best it generally results in an extra round of successful attack rolls. On the other hand, critical fumble charts often produce a staggering array of effects, the most common of which in my experience is dropping your weapon (costing you a round of attacks in addition to opening you up to free AoO's from the enemy), to damaging or breaking your weapon which potentially removes you from the fight, to causing harm to an ally, or some other permanent effect which could not only remove you from the current fight but future fights as well.


    In the many, many years I have played tabletop RPG's I have never once played in a game that used a homebrewed critical fumble chart that was not ultimately detrimental to the game for one reason or another. The one time I played in a system that had a baked in chart, a Thieve's World game, it ended up causing a player to leave the game.*

    I have found the concept to be largely contrary to the point of playing an escapism game. And my advice on critical fumble systems begins and ends with "Don't."



    *It's a long story, but the short version is that he was an archer that had one of his arms permanently disabled as a result of a critical hit from an enemy. He could no longer wield a bow which rendered his character essentially a liability as he could not participate in combat. The DM had likewise made it clear that there was nothing that existed that could repair this damage. The player was fond of the character and did not want to roll up anything else, and ended up leaving the game the end of the next session after the injury occurred.
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    Default Re: Fumbles

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryton View Post
    Oh, is the presence of orcs a requirement for fumbles?
    To give a simple example: in practice i hit the target most of the time and i frequently hit a bullseye.

    When playing paintball i have both done and received accidental (as in not intentional) friendly fire.

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    Default Re: Fumbles

    Quote Originally Posted by Asmotherion View Post
    To give a simple example: in practice i hit the target most of the time and i frequently hit a bullseye.

    When playing paintball i have both done and received accidental (as in not intentional) friendly fire.
    on that specific point, having a fumble on a ranged attack (either mundane or magical) hitting someone that's cclose to your intended target, or along the path, is reasonable. I think there are some rules for hitting cover, anyway. and that someone may even be another enemy, so not necesssarily detrimental (and could be the source of "actually, I was aiming for the horse" moments)

    But the difference between hitting the bullseye and shooting another person at paitball is simple: when target practicing, thhe target is standing still, you are standing still and taking aim steadily, and there is not much time pressure. if you have to shoot a rrunning target while you yourself are running in another direction, then anything can happen.
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    Asmotherion's Avatar

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    Default Re: Fumbles

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    on that specific point, having a fumble on a ranged attack (either mundane or magical) hitting someone that's cclose to your intended target, or along the path, is reasonable. I think there are some rules for hitting cover, anyway. and that someone may even be another enemy, so not necesssarily detrimental (and could be the source of "actually, I was aiming for the horse" moments)

    But the difference between hitting the bullseye and shooting another person at paitball is simple: when target practicing, thhe target is standing still, you are standing still and taking aim steadily, and there is not much time pressure. if you have to shoot a rrunning target while you yourself are running in another direction, then anything can happen.
    Exactly. And add to that the fact that in a combat situation (or simulation) you have to decide between "shoot" or "don't shoot" in the fraction of a seccond. if you overthink it for a moment the enemy has an opportunity to hit you. This pressure is what can cause you to "fumble".

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  30. - Top - End - #30
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Fumbles

    Quote Originally Posted by Asmotherion View Post
    Exactly. And add to that the fact that in a combat situation (or simulation) you have to decide between "shoot" or "don't shoot" in the fraction of a seccond. if you overthink it for a moment the enemy has an opportunity to hit you. This pressure is what can cause you to "fumble".
    The main issue that I have with this reasoning is that there are already mechanics to account for the difficulty of hitting your intended target, such as cover from other creatures and the penalty for shooting into melee. Yes, it would be more realistic if you could hit somebody other than your intended target rather than being limited to hitting your target or nobody at all, but I find the resulting gameplay of hitting an ally every other encounter less fun.

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